The Diamonds Biography
The Diamonds are a Canadian vocal quartet who had 16 Billboard hit recordings in the 1950s and early 1960s. Dave Somerville (lead), Ted Kowalski (tenor), Phil Levitt (baritone), and Bill Reed (bass) were the original members. They were most known for their interpretation and introduction of rhythm and blues vocal group music to a wider pop music audience. Contrary to popular belief, Tom Hanks’ father was never a member of the organisation.
The first performance of the group occurred in the basement of St. Thomas Aquinas Church in Toronto, where they sang in a Christmas minstrel play. The audience’s reception to the Somerville-led trio was so positive that they decided to go professional that night.
They drove to New York after 18 months of training and tied for first place on Arthur Godfrey’s Talent Scouts. The incentive of becoming a guest artist on Godfrey’s show for a week led to a recording contract with Coral Records. Nat Goodman, a professional musician, was hired as their manager. Coral recorded four songs, the most well-known of which being “Black Denim Trousers and Motorcycle Boots,” written by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller.
The next significant step was an audition with Cleveland, Ohio, radio disc jockey Bill Randle, who had helped numerous popular groups, such as The Crew-Cuts, achieve success. Randle was fascinated by the Diamonds and connected them to a Mercury Records producer, who signed the band to a recording contract.
The Diamonds’ first recording for Mercury was “Why Do Fools Fall in Love” (originally by Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers), which became their first hit and peaked at No. 12 in the United States, and their follow-up hit single, “The Church Bells May Ring” (originally by The Willows), peaked at No. 14 in the United States.
The Diamonds’ biggest singles were 1957’s “Little Darlin'” (written by Maurice Williams and first sung by The Gladiolas) and “The Stroll” (1957), an original song written for the group by Clyde Otis based on an idea by Dick Clark.
Despite being signed to do rock & roll, Mercury paired them with jazz composer and arranger Pete Rugolo for one of his Meet series recordings. The Diamonds Meet Pete Rugolo CD allowed them to return to their roots and perform several well-known songs.
In the film The Big Beat, the ensemble sang “Little Darlin'” and “Where Mary Go.” They performed the theme song from the 1958 picture Kathy O’.
They appeared on the shows of Steve Allen, Perry Como, Vic Damone, Tony Bennett, Eddy Arnold, and Paul Winchell, among others. They were also featured on American Bandstand. Reed, Kowalski, and Levitt left the group in the late 1950s, and were replaced by Mike Douglas, John Felten, and Evan Fisher.
The Diamonds received national notoriety again in 2000, when the original members were chosen to sing in TJ Lubinsky’s PBS production of Doo-Wop 51, and again in 2004 in Magic Moments – The Best of ’50s Pop.
Stetson died in 2003 after receiving a heart transplant in 2000. Kowalski, the original member, died of heart illness on August 8, 2010, at the age of 79. The Diamonds appeared as special guests with The Fabulous Palm Springs Follies at the Plaza Theatre in Palm Springs, California, in 2012. Douglas, 78, died in an automobile accident on July 2, 2012. Somerville died in Santa Barbara, California, on July 14, 2015.
The Diamonds continue to tour today with Gary Owens (baritone), Adam David Marino (tenor), Michael Lawrence (lead), and Jeff Dolan (bass), albeit none of the members are from the original Mercury Records ensemble.
|We’re Still Rockin’|
|Diamonds Are Forever|
|Songs from the Old West|
|America’s Favorite Song Stylists|
|The Diamonds Meet Pete Rugolo|
|America’s Number One Singing Stylists|
Frequently Asked Questions
Who Was The Original Lead Singer Of The Diamonds?
Where Were The Group The Diamonds From?
The Diamonds were from Toronto, Canada.